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Various Artists
Easy To Be Free: The Songs Of Rick Nelson
Planting Seeds Records

Back in the golden era of rock and roll music, young people had one thing to look forward to every week on the burgeoning black and white television… The Ozzie And Harriet Show. The reason for their expectation was simple. Each week at the finish of the show The Nelson's son Ricky would perform a song, outdoing Elvis Presley and any other rocker of the time. Ricky's voice was clear and strong, and his songs expressed the sentiments of being a teenager at the time so well that he was immediately a hit. Of course, having a young James Burton on guitar didn't hurt, either. Over the next few decades, Nelson continued his songwriting and singing career, giving the world some amazing songs.

On Easy To Be Free, a host of indie artists pay tribute to these amazing songs, and in turn, to the great man who wrote the songs. The Voyces rendition of "Poor Little Fool" preserves the original spirit of the song, having an innocent purity to the performance that recalls a simpler time in rock music. Linda Draper gives a slow and melancholy performance on "How Long", showcasing her delicately beautiful voice and bringing note to the dark complexity of what could be mistaken as a simple Nelson composition. Nic Dalton & The Gloomchasers give a slightly psychedelic spin to the classic "Alone", while 1888 gives the classic "Travelin' Man" a neo-fifties treatment. It's real cool. Rockers Dolorean give a lo-fi slowcore performance of the amazingly deep "Are You Really Real" and John Beland does a fantastic job reviving the innocent wonder of "Young Love".

The highlight of this collection for me is John McEuen (of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band fame) doing an absolutely blistering version of the rockabilly classic "Believe What You Say", speeding things up a bit and working in some nice bluegrass touches to create an awesome grass-a-billy version of one of my favorite Nelson songs. The song just absolutely rocks, maintaining the original feel of the tune while incorporating some nice banjo rolls and adding just a bit more hop to the rhythm. Jeff Larson gives a very early Byrds-like reading of the cool "Legacy", which leads into a slow-down version of "Don't Leave Me This Way" performed by the indomitable Marshall Crenshaw. Liz Durrett slows "Try (Try To Fall In Love)" way down and makes it almost an ambient track and Aaron Booth gives the super slow treatment to the famously rocking ""Hello Mary Lou", stripping it of all its rock glory and turning it to a beautifully haunting slo-fi Red House Painters' style track; beautifully done and lending an air to the song that I didn't know it could contain… I guess James Burton guitar solos don't have to always be the best part of Ricky Nelson's songs.

And so the songs of the man who Bob Dylan proclaimed "His voice was sort of mysterious and made you fall into a certain mood" are brought to a new generation of rockers. Hopefully the next generation can take away some of the intrinsic values that Ricky Nelson's songs contain, bringing new life to rock and roll. And a really great thing about this collection, besides some great music, is that a portion of the proceeds from the sale of each CD goes to support CancerCare (www.cancercare.org), an organization doing great things to support those who suffer from cancer.

-Embo Blake

Track Listing:
1. The Primary 5 "One x One"
2. The Voyces "Poor Little Fool"
3. Jeff Mellin "Garden Party"
4. Oed Ronne "Take A Broken Heart"
5. Linda Draper "How Long"
6. Nic Dalton & The Gloomchasers "Alone"
7. Jeffrey Foskett "Young Emotions"
8. Astropop 3 "Life"
9. Denny Sarokin "One Night Stand"
10. 1888 "Travelin' Man"
11. Dolorean "Are You Really Real?"
12. Michael Barrett "Nightime Lady"
13. John Beland "Young World"
14. John McEuen with Jim Ratts and Runaway Express "Believe What You Say"
15. Jeff Larson "Legacy"
16. Marshall Crenshaw "Don't Leave Me This Way"
17. Liz Durrett "Try (Try To Fall In Love)"
18. Allen Clapp "Lonesome Town"
19. The Autumn Leaves "Easy To Be Free"
20. Aaron Booth "Hello Mary Lou"

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